Dan Cates has gone back-to-back in one of the crown jewels of the WSOP, the $50K Poker Players Championship (PCC).
Cates came to the final table not only dressed as a lost son of pro wrestling icon “Macho Man” Randy Savage, but stayed in character as he battled Benny Glaser, Yuri Dzivielevski, Johannes Becker, and Naoya Kihara on his way to the repeat.
The event attracted 112, 49 more than last year, who built a prize pool of $5.3 million.
Last year, Cates won the PPC dressed as Saiyan from Dragon Ball Z. He dyed his hair green for the full effect, shooting imaginary fireballs from his hands on the way to the trophy named after Chip Reese. In 2019, he finished sixth in the PCC dressed like Dan Cates.
This year, he wore a cape with “Savage” stitched in silver and red on the back, changed his voice into a gravel road, and made an entrance fit for the WWF.
The only thing missing was the pump-up music, smoke machines, fireworks, and a facsimile of Miss Elizabeth.
He even brought a championship wresting belt with a piece of paper with “WSOP” taped on the front, which sat next to his real WSOP bracelet on the table the entire match.
He imitated the Macho Man the whole night, starting with the pre-game interview.
“Listen, it’s just like dejevu, you know what I’m saying,” when Jeff Platt asked him what it feels like entering the final table as chip leader a defending champion.
As for the remaining opponents?
“Four other players? I didn’t even realize these seats were occupied. This Benny Glaser guy, he once played me on the Internet, but NOT ANYMORE can you hide you face behind the Internet, Benny Glaser, because now your face-to-face with Macho Man Dan!”
Glaser, the UK great, stood near the table, recording video on his phone in the background, chuckling.
Nine WSOP bracelets between last five players
Glaser led the final table in terms of hardware collected with four WSOP bracelets.
He started almost even with Cate’s 9 million chips.
Brazil’s Dzivielevski brought his two bracelets and a stack of 7.5 million.
Right behind was Germany’s Becker, who was runner-up to Elior Sion in the PCC in 2017. He won a bracelet a $2,500 mixed triple lowball event in 2018.
Kihara, from Japan, was the short stack, with 3.2 million. He also has a bracelet he won in a $5K PLO event in 2012.
Add Cate’s bracelet, and that’s nine WSOP victories between them.
“What a battle”
The PCC is a mixed-game tournament meant to test the best of the High Rollers. The games played are: No-Limit Hold’em, Seven Card Stud, Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, Razz, Pot-Limit Omaha, Limit Hold’em, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better, No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw and 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw.
With so much poker intellect and power assembled under the studio lights, it’s no wonder the final table lasted almost 12 hours.
It took about five hours to get heads-up between Dzivielevski and Cates. Becker, Glaser, and Kihara were eliminated in that order.
Kihara is having a good 2022 WSOP. This was his second third place finish, along with a fifth.
When Kihara was eliminated, Dzivielevski’s large and boisterous rail turned up the volume and to energize their man. Cates responded by turning towards them, lifting his fake belt, and they erupted in boos and jeers.
It was only the beginning, as the two players strapped themselves in for an epic heads-up match that seesawed back and fourth.
Twice Dzivielevski had a nearly four-to-1 chip lead, but couldn’t send “Macho” Dan to the rail.
It took almost 7 hours until Cates ended up with all the chips, WSOP bracelet number-two, and $1,449,103.
“In dawn’s early light, ‘Jungleman’ Dan Cates makes history,” said Norman Chad, sounding a little pound-drunk, as theatrical boos rained down on Cates. “What a battle.”
And then, just like that, the same people who were booing started chanting “back-to-back, back-to-back, back-to-back” and showered the two-time poker champ with applause.
Platt, playing up the wrestling angle in the post-match interview, told Cates it was “one of the greatest accomplishments in poker history.”
Cates ended the day like he started it, channeling the Macho Man while leveling heaps of praise on Dzivielevski, who called his experience “incredible. I’m going to remember it forever. Amazing,” he told Platt.
Dzivielevski won $895,614 for what Cates called a “valiant” effort.
“I thought I had him many, many times. Many times. Many times,” Cates told Platt in his best Macho Man. “Listen, he had some savage. Some really savage moves. Straight out of Brazil where I don’t even know where they’re from. But it didn’t matter, because no one had a chance against Macho Man Dan!